A Sweet Taste of the Marketing World
In the annual Kilts Center Marketing Case Competition, Booth students gain hands-on marketing experience while companies get to meet bright future marketing leaders.
- February 06, 2023
In Sanjana Puri’s application to Chicago Booth, she wrote about how excited she was to participate in the Kilts Center Marketing Case Competition. “It sounded like an amazing, real-world way to get a taste of marketing,” she says.
Months later, Puri—now a Full-Time student—and her team were selected to present in the Case Competition. Her excitement was now mixed with nerves.
The competition arrived amid a busy time. Austin Coon, one of Puri’s teammates, says that the team spent the week leading up to it researching and practicing their presentation while also preparing for final exams and meeting with recruiters.
Even so, the competition came with a great incentive: experience.
“Going into the interview season, I thought that it’d be nice to have some hands-on marketing experience,” says Coon, also a Full-Time student. “I knew that doing this case competition would give me a little bit more legitimacy.”
“We’re so close to our business every day, so this competition is an exciting chance to get some fresh eyes to help us identify our biggest opportunities.”
This year, eight groups in the Kilts Case Competition presented their case to team members of the Now and Later candy brand, which is part of the Ferrara Candy Company.
Now and Later brand manager Jenny Chen and her team were looking for ways to refresh their brand while also growing their customer base.
“We’re so close to our business every day, so this competition is an exciting chance to get some fresh eyes to help us identify our biggest opportunities,” Chen says.
Each group in the competition received metrics and other important details from Ferrara on the challenge. Then, over the course of 10 days, teams researched potential solutions, created a presentation, and pitched their recommendations to the judges, including Chen and her colleagues.
Most students who participate in the annual competition are in their first quarter at Booth. Art Middlebrooks, executive director of the Kilts Center for Marketing and a clinical professor of marketing, says that the competition gives them a taste of brand management, which most students don’t get until their first internship.
“They’re not taking it for course credit. They’re doing it strictly because they want to see what they can come up with,” Middlebrooks says. “It’s fantastic, especially seeing what they’re able to do in such a short period of time.”
This is the first year Ferrara has sponsored the Kilts Center Marketing Case competition, an annual event dating back to 2016. Companies including Whirlpool, Tyson Foods, and Molson Coors have been the focus of the competition in years past.
Each member of Puri and Coon’s group—called SOUR Bias—researched different aspects of the challenge, including market data, marketing tactics, and competitor information, all while eating a small mountain of candy.
By the end of their research, the group came up with recommendations for Now and Later, leaning on what they had learned in Marketing Strategy class, Puri said. That included addressing the 3Cs of marketing: customer wants and needs, company identity, and competitor analysis.
While they only had 15 minutes to pitch, team SOUR Bias managed to get everything into their presentation and answer all the judges’ questions. After an exhale of relief, it was time to wait for the judges’ decision. “It was definitely a very long couple of hours,” says Puri.
When the third and second place teams were announced, Puri and Coon both figured that they had fallen short of winning. But when the judges announced SOUR Bias as the first-place team, they felt ecstatic.
“I think I screamed internally a little bit,” Puri says. “Maybe externally too.”
“The fun thing with marketing is that as much as it’s data-driven and analytical, it’s also creative.”
After winning, each member of SOUR Bias received a 20-pound box of candy. They’ll also be going to dinner with Now and Later executives in early 2023.
Most importantly: they now have the experience of working with a real brand on a real marketing problem.
“The students were able to identify some clear product and communication challenges that helped reinforce what we had internally hypothesized,” Chen says. “It was a great way to ensure that we’re set up for success before we innovate on the product.”
Each year, both the students and companies benefit from the Kilts Center Marketing Case Competition, Middlebrooks says. Students get a chance to work with a real business problem and present to executives, while companies get a chance to meet talented students.
“These companies are looking to hire bright future marketers and leaders,” Middlebrooks says. “They want to enhance their reputation as an outstanding employer on campus. But they’re also looking for insights and ideas from the teams.”
And the competition offered an experience that Puri and Coon will carry with them throughout their careers.
For Puri, the competition helped her see that data is never going to be perfect, but you can still work with imperfections and form a strong hypothesis.
For Coon, the competition confirmed his desire to work in brand management.
“It was a ton of fun brainstorming different ideas,” Coon says. “It’s amazing. While it was tough, it felt like a break from all the studying and work. The fun thing with marketing is that as much as it’s data-driven and analytical, it’s also creative.”
As the Kilts Center for Marketing celebrates its 20th anniversary, explore how it has helped Chicago Booth transform the field of marketing.20 Things You Didn’t Know about Marketing at Booth
Booth’s business accelerator helped a London-based Executive MBA student turn his idea into a thriving, mobile-first training startup that’s helping frontline employees grow their skills.A Better-Trained Workforce? There’s an App for That.
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